10 minimalist home design products from the happiest places on earth
Add Nordic style to your home with these affordable pieces
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I’ll admit it: I love stuff. Whether it’s kitchen tools or home decor, I like products that make life easier or my house feel more comfortable.
But I also hate clutter. And that’s why I love to buy products designed in the Nordic countries—Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. Nordic designs are known for being minimalist, thoughtful, and of high quality.
I’d be willing to bet that good design is one reason the Nordic countries are consistently ranked among the happiest places in the world, despite winters that are long, dark, and cold.
However, you don’t have to give your house a whole minimalist makeover or spend a fortune to find joy in Nordic design. I’ve mixed and matched a few inexpensive items—like Ultima Thule tumblers from Finland’s Iittala—with my existing, eclectic decor, and I think the mashup looks great. (Yes, that's them in the image above—and no, that's not my house.)
If you decide you want to add some Nordic happiness to your home, here are some affordable pieces to get you started.
Orrefors Nordic Light Votive Holder
Not only is Orrefors glass made in Sweden, but the company’s designs are inspired by Scandinavia. At just $20, this votive holder is a great housewarming gift.
I bought one for myself after touring Skåne—the southernmost tip of Sweden. I was struck by the how the sun smoldered in the sky late in the evening, and I recall that glow whenever I light a candle in this Orrefors votive holder.
Kosta Boda Bruk glassware
One hallmark of Nordic design is subtle practicality. That’s the case with these affordable tumblers from Sweden’s Kosta Boda.
Flip them over and you’ll find an indented cross that’s reminiscent of the Swedish flag. When the glass is full, however, the indentations work to channel condensation away from the glass. I particularly like how these glasses look in blue.
Magisso Happy Pet “Slow Eating” Bowls
These might just look like minimalist food and water bowls for cats and dogs, and that’s fine. Just because you have a pet doesn’t mean you have to put ugly accessories around your house.
But the designers at Finland’s Magisso hid a bunch of innovations in the Happy Pet series, including an invitation for pets to join in the slow food movement. According to Magisso, a raised decoration inside the bowl—either a bone (dog) or fish (cat, or pescatarian dog)—keeps animals from putting their whole faces inside the bowl and scarfing down their chow too quickly.
The bowls are also made of a special material that stays cool for hours after it’s immersed in water for a minute, which will keep Spot or Fluffy’s water chilly all day long.
Bosign cable organizer
It can be hard to live a minimalist lifestyle if you love gadgets and video games. Chargers, controllers, and cords are necessary—but they’re also clutter.
I like this cable organizer from Sweden’s Bosign because it not only hides wires, it offers a place to store power strips and controllers without unplugging them. The top can be used as a place to charge a phone or tablet, too.
Bodum Insulated Travel French Press
The coffee break is a sacred tradition in Scandinavia, where working hard is just as important as slowing down and doing things right.
Bodum, based in Denmark, is well known for its iconic French press coffee maker. But American schedules are too tight for sitting down and sharing a whole pot. That’s why this travel French press is such a good idea. Keep it at your desk and take a moment to yourself as it steeps.
Eva Solo Self-Watering Orchid Vase
A lot of Nordic designs are spare and colorless, and winters near the Arctic circle can look equally bleak.
This self-watering orchid vase will help you add a pop of color—and a bit of living greenery—to your home, regardless of how minimalist your style is indoors, or how cold it is outdoors.
Bigso Storage Containers
One of the hardest things about maintaining a minimalist lifestyle is dealing with all the paper and ephemera of daily life. (Apparently, people who live in a photo shoots for design magazines never get bills or pay taxes—or have kids.)
That’s why people love the portable storage containers sold at Ikea. In fact, I have a ton of them around my house—all full of old receipts, cards from friends and family, and stuff I don’t use every day that I don’t want to throw out.
Bigso makes those containers for Ikea, but also builds higher-end versions for the Container Store. They’re still affordable, though, so you can pick up a bunch to keep your house looking tidy.
Most Nordic design looks good, but also solves a problem. In the case of this cool spreader from Sweden, it keeps butter and cheese from smearing all over your counter.
How? Well, the spreader is angled, with a heavily weighted handle. When you put it down, it sits at about 45 degrees with the blade lifted above the ground. Right now, only one British retailer ships it to the U.S.—but we hope American stores will catch on soon, because this spreader isn’t just practical—it looks good on your table, too.
Scanwood wooden utensils
Bare wood is an important element of Nordic design. Jens Møller, the director and designer at ScanWood, creates kitchenware from a variety of European woods. The result is a natural look, perfect for adding an element of tranquility to an otherwise busy kitchen.
These basic utensils are made from olive wood. It’s sourced from Eastern Europe, but the design is totally Scandinavian—with worldwide appeal.
Linden Sweden strainers and funnels
Just because a kitchen tool is practical and sturdy doesn’t mean it can’t be elegant, too. Strainers and funnels from Linden Sweden are pressure spun, not stamped, so they’re sturdy and attractive.
Attention to detail is also important, and it shows in the build of this nine-inch strainer. Instead of tucking it away inside a drawer, I think this nine-inch strainer looks good enough to leave out—even if it’s not headed to the permanent collection at MoMA any time soon.